NEW YORK — Women who have spent time behind bars are getting the message out: the formerly incarcerated can and should register to vote.
Standing near City Hall during a recent rally, one woman shouted, "No, you can not be violated and re-incarcerated for registering and voting."
The deadline to register to vote in the presidential election is this Friday, October 9. The groups that attended the rally are calling on elected officials to keep criminal justice reforms in the spotlight.
Advocates say the formerly incarcerated must get out and vote to make elected officials more responsive to their concerns.
Sharon White-Harrigan did 11 years behind bars and is a part of the Women's Community Justice Association.
"Understanding the power that is within them. Understanding that gives us a certain leverage over our life," White-Harrigan explained. "That's why it is important."
Donna Hylton served time for a Harlem murder. She says she's turned her life around. Now she has become a national advocate for the formerly incarcerated.
"I served 27 years for a violent crime, that's what I was convicted of. That's not who I am. But, it doesn't matter regardless of that, I still have the right to vote," said Hylton.
She and other advocates say whether a person has a felony or misdemeanor conviction, they can register to vote as long as they have done their time.
Hylton is the president of an organization called, A Little Piece of Light. She started registering formerly incarcerated individuals every Saturday this summer in front of the Harlem State Office Building.
"We are not just letting our people in New York know that they have a right to vote; we are letting the country know," said Hylton.
City and state election officials say a person cannot vote if they are still on parole for a felony. But, in 2018 Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a conditional pardon to parolees so they can vote.
A person being held in a city or county pending trial has the right to vote by absentee ballot.
Advocates say beyond the presidential election they also want to make sure the formerly incarcerated participate in city and state elections when they are happening.
Tracy Lang served 24 years in prison and has been approved to vote. "I have my papers, my credentials. Just got it in the mail as I was walking out of the door."
Her first time ever voting will be in the presidential election.